El Poblado: The Colombian Expat Magnet
El Poblado (“The Village” in Spanish) has become the cornerstone of expat growth both in Medellin and throughout Colombia. Just as it was in the early seventeenth century, El Poblado has become the hub for economic, commercial and business growth in present day Medellin and in the surrounding region.
Known locally as Las Manzanas de Oro (the Golden Apples), this cosmopolitan center is filled with modern amenities that many expats find compelling. As the region continues its resurgence from the conflicts of the latter 20th century, the investment potential is also a powerful draw.
El Poblado: Cornerstone Of Medellin
El Poblado represents the dynamic resurgence of Medellin. The modern structures, bustling commercial areas, and high-rise residences stand in stark contrast to the image of the region in the late 1980s and 1990s.
In 1541, as part of the Spanish exploration of what would later become Colombia, Conquistadors arrived in what is now Aburrá Valley. In 1574, Gaspar de Rodas, the first governor of Antioquia was granted 3 square miles to develop a foothold in the valley.
Later, in 1616, another Spaniard, Francisco de Herrera y Campuzano, founded a settlement that he named Poblado de San Lorenzo, the site of today’s El Poblado Square. While the original population included indigenous people, Caucasians and Mestizos, an edict by the colonial governor decreed that whites and natives could not live together.
As a result, the colonial government moved to a new location in what is today Berrio Square, leaving El Poblado as a suburb of the village. Since the area was not considered as having any strategic importance, El Poblado was largely marginalized until the mid-nineteenth century.
Evolving Into A Symbol Of Prosperity And Potential
The colonial authorities gave the parish the name of San José del Poblado in 1845. Like most colonial villages, El Poblado had a square with a plaza, actual streets and, most importantly, land for sale.
Throughout the later part of the nineteenth century, the more affluent families in Medellin looked to El Poblado as the place to build their villas and estates. This trend continued through the early part of the twentieth century as other farming families, drawn to the industrial growth in El Poblado, moved to the region adding to the economic energies already emerging there.
In the 1950s, El Poblado was formally included as a barrio of Medellin. By the 1970s, wealthy Medellin residents flocked to the barrio which had become the second largest urban center. It was during this period that El Poblado was given the nickname Milla de Oro (Golden Mile) and the Zona Rosa, an expat and tourist-centric area was created.
Today, El Poblado has become the preferred location in Medellin for upper income Colombians as well as a growing expat population. The twenty-two neighborhoods that make up El Poblado are filled with new construction, commercial and residential locations that hold tremendous potential for a return on investment.
El Poblado Today – Leading A Dynamic Resurgence
El Poblado has the modern features that compare favorably to many first world metropolitan areas. One of the premier amenities of the barrio is the plethora of high-end shopping malls that are a centerpiece for the area.
The development of a modern Metro transit system has been a major factor in El Poblado’s growth. With accessibility to the rest of Medellin dramatically improved through the latter part of the twentieth century, El Poblado’s desirability for commercial enterprises has also expanded.
Below are examples of several of the most popular locations in El Poblado.
Sante Fe Mall
This shopping and entertainment complex is the largest in Colombia and one of premier shopping meccas in Central and South America. Opened in 2010, this ultra-modern complex has over 450 stores, 25 restaurants, a VIP movie theater and 2 million square feet of total space.
In addition to the architecturally pleasing design, Santa Fe also features a retractable roof that can be opened for good weather days. With popular anchor stores like Carrefour (now known as Jumbo) and Falabella and a growing number of international chains (such as Victoria’s Secret), Santa Fe is truly a special shopping and entertainment experience.
El Tesoro Parque Comercial
Opened in 1996, El Tesoro has combined shopping with commercial development. The original 174 stores have grown to a total of over 350 units with names such as Adidas, Gap, Nine West, Tommy Hilfiger and other high end brands.
In addition to the entertainment venues, El Tesoro has also been a location for business growth. In 2013, the Medical Tower Treasure opened with full professional offices, seven operating rooms and specialized medical professional services that rival any comparable site in the tropics.
Nestled in the heart of the entertainment center of El Poblado–the Zona Rosa–Parque Lleras is filled with bars, clubs, gourmet restaurants and revelers looking to have a great night on the town. As a playground for the “beautiful people” this Colombian version of South Beach is definitely a spot to party the night away.
As might be expected in such a venue, prices can be higher than other areas of Medellin. However the atmosphere and ambiance make the extra cost well worth the experience.
El Poblado Hotels And Accommodations
For those wanting to stay close to the action, El Poblado has the majority of high end hotels in Medellin. Spa Hotels, such as the modern NH Medellin Collection Royal and the Hotel Park 10, place visitors steps away from the entertainment and shopping areas that are the heart and soul of El Poblado.
Another alternative, for those seeking more of a “home” type experience would be renting one of the many apartments in the area on a nightly basis. For as little as $55.00 (USD) you can have your own Medellin “casa” to enjoy during your stay.
Cost Of Living In El Poblado, Colombia
It may come as a pleasant surprise to potential expats and investors that El Poblado is comparatively still an attractive option. While it is the most expensive area in Medellin, El Poblado compares favorably with other highly developed metropolitan centers in the Latin tropics.
As can be seen in the list below, the Medellin area, including El Poblado, compares favorably with locations in Costa Rica, Ecuador and Panama in terms of cost of living. When added to favorable currency exchange rates, El Poblado’s “price tag” can offer luxury living more affordably than usually found in upscale tropical areas.
Consumer Prices Including Rent in San Jose are 109.70% higher than in Medellin
Consumer Prices Including Rent in Quito are 58.09% higher than in Medellin
Consumer Prices Including Rent in Boquete are 58.79% higher than in Medellin
More Value For Your Dollar
That favorable exchange rate, mentioned above, makes living in El Poblado a much more affordable option. Currently, a US Dollar is worth $3,038 Colombian Pesos.
If there is a negative to this increase in buying power, it is that the dollar is not widely accepted even in El Poblado’s trendiest spots. Having credit cards or converting your dollars to pesos will make transactions easier to negotiate.
Real Estate In El Poblado
One question that comes to the forefront of the minds of investors and expats alike is the cost of real estate in this trendy, upscale neighborhood. Though considered high end by Colombian standards, the prices for both commercial real estate and residential homes is surprisingly affordable, especially when one considers the quality and amenities found in the residences.
There are many affordable rental units in the various barrios of El Poblado. Finding a rental with modern features that’s fully furnished and close to El Poblado’s popular locations is easier than you might imagine and a great way to transition to your new life in Colombia.
Purchasing real estate in El Poblado is as streamlined as other parts of Colombia. There is no requirement for residency or citizenship in order to buy or rent property.
A very attractive feature of property ownership in Colombia is the low tax rate. The unified tax rate on the combined value of land and buildings (as assessed by the municipality) can be as low as 0.3%. The top of the range is still a very reasonable 3.3%.
There are many available condos and apartments throughout El Poblado that can range from under $90,000 to over $500,000. When factoring in the lower costs of living in the Medellin area, owning a home in this flourishing part of the city becomes a desirable option.
Is El Poblado The Right Choice For You?
This highly developed, growing, Colombian neighborhood has many things to commend it as a great location for expats and investors looking for new vistas in the Latin Tropics. As with other tropical destinations, weighing the pluses and minuses can come down to a matter of what you are (or are not) looking for.
El Poblado May Not Be For Everyone
There is no doubt that El Poblado has many attractive, high-end amenities that expats and investors find attractive. The modern high-rise residences, top-end shopping malls, and quality entertainment venues are among the best in the Latin tropics.
However, for those seeking a more rustic, less frenzied atmosphere, El Poblado may be too much of a good thing. If you are seeking to find a more traditional Colombian lifestyle, this thriving metropolitan community would not be the ideal match.
For some, Medellin’s recent history may be too much of an emotional stumbling block to overcome. Even with El Poblado’s amenities and developed infrastructure, the shadows of the Escobar years may outweigh the possibilities of the twenty-first century.
Beyond The Horizon
El Poblado is a shining example of Medellin’s resurgence as a cultural and economic powerhouse. The blend of first world amenities, a strong commercial base, and a growing expat presence all deserve a closer look by those seeking to explore retirement and investment opportunities in the Latin tropics.
With the Medellin region easily accessible from the US, visiting the Golden Mile is a convenient proposition. Taking that important first step is a great way to learn, first hand, if El Poblado holds the future that you are dreaming of.